High Court awards S$8.65 million to cyclist struck by a bundle of overhead cables

High Court awards S$8.65 million to cyclist struck by a bundle of overhead cables

A cyclist struck by a bundle of overhead cables while riding on a pavement has been awarded S$8.65 million in damages by the High Court.

Ms Siew Pick Chiang was cycling on a public pavement along Pasir Ris Drive 8 on 15 October 2009 when she was struck by a bundle of overhead cables that had fallen down. The cables came from a nearby work-site for which the first defendant Hyundai Engineering & Construction Co Ltd (HECCL) was the main contractor.

On 7 September 2012, almost 35 months later, Ms Siew commenced a claim against the HECCL. The developer of the project, Hong Realty (Private) Limited was added later as a second defendant but she eventually decided to proceed against the main contractor only.

The physical injuries caused directly to her were relatively minor. Her main issue was that she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which was so serious that it gave rise to a series of medical issues.

Consequently, she was admitted 18 or 19 times into Gleneagles Hospital or Mount Elizabeth Hospital for varying periods of time, the court said. The last time she was admitted into hospital was on 27 February 2014 at Mount Elizabeth Hospital. She was warded there for more than two years at a stretch and, still remains warded there.

Her psychiatrist, Dr Sim Li Ping said that she is working to try and have the Ms Siew discharged by 31 December 2016. If the she is discharged on or about 31 December 2016, she would have remained in hospital for about two years and ten months at one stretch.

The claim was around $26m for special and general damages. She detailed her expenses and claims due to her condition caused by the accident and categorised them as follows:

  • The pre-trial and post-trial medical and hospital expenses.
  • The expenses for hiring part-time caregivers to care for her and for separate caregivers to care for a son born on 19 April 2010 after the accident. She said that she was not able to care for her son.
  • The loss of earnings pre-trial from November 2009 to 29 February 2016 and loss of future earnings.
  • The taxi fares. For pre-trial taxi fares, and post-trial taxi fares.
  • There were many other expenses claimed, including the claim for pain and suffering and loss of amenities.

HECCL’s lawyer argued that Ms Siew’s ‘staggering’ claim, was a figure that should give anyone pause for thought. It is 13 times the highest award of damages by a Singapore court for a personal injury claim. Justice Woo said, the litigation process, which lasted almost four years, was pointed out as an important ‘trigger’ for Ms Siew’s stress.

The judge said it was not argued that Ms Siew had a ‘ host of medical issues’ arising from her PTSD.

However, Justice Woo Bih Li examined the claims thoroughly through each claim and after arguments and questions to witnesses, he decided to award Ms Siew S$8.65 million in damages, the detail of the Judge’s arguments and reasoning could be read on the report by Singapore Law Watch.

The judge said, “It has been very difficult for the court to assess the damages for the Plaintiff especially in the context of future expenses. I had asked the parties to consider if a panel of doctors should be set up to review her condition from time to time so as to obtain a better assessment of her future needs.” “However, nothing was achieved from this suggestion. It was also unclear whether future reviews would cause more stress to the Plaintiff than a patient with only physical infirmities.”

The sum awarded is the largest payout in a personal injury claim in Singapore so far.

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